I used my dream vacation to save an animal from extinction

I stepped off the plane and breathed in the air. It wasn’t anything like I’d imagined. It was better.

Since the sixth grade I’d been obsessed with Madagascar. I voraciously read about the amazing flora and fauna that dominated this ecologically vibrant and diverse island. I even put a the flag of Madagascar on my ceiling and fell asleep to it every night. And I promised myself that I’d go there one day.

Years later (and what seemed like a lifetime) that day finally came. I came here to save a species facing extinction — but the clock was ticking.

Two decades after my love affair with the country started, I began hearing of some major issues facing the country that so fascinated me. Erosion, deforestation and overpopulation were pushing out untold species of animals. But there was the plight of one animal, the Greater Bamboo Lemur, that really resonated with me.

There are only 500 Greater Bamboo Lemurs left on earth.

These guys and girls.

Lemurs are the poster children of Madagascar. Of all the animals with backbones living on this planet, lemurs are the family closest to extinction.

And with such a tiny population of Greater Bamboo Lemurs, the loss of just one would be devastating. Being that over 80% of Madagascar’s forests have been cut down in just the past 40 years, if nothing is done, these lemurs will be gone from this planet forever — very, very soon.

In fact, scientists are giving Greater Bamboo Lemurs only 20 more years if we don’t change things immediately.

Armed with this knowledge, I knew I had to act. And fast.

I soon found out that only two Greater Bamboo Lemurs live in a protected environment, safely tucked away within Ranomafana National Park.

Just outside the park, where the threatened lemurs live.

There is, however, a group of 100 of them (that’s 100 of the 500 left on earth) living in a small patch of deteriorating habitat just outside of the park. This population is healthy, but is in danger.

So I now had a clear task at hand: reunite these two populations inside the safety of Ranomafana National Park.

But how would they ever go about getting to this safe space? The lemurs won’t cross open country and the small forest did not connect with the park lands.

The solution? A four-mile long bamboo corridor needed to be planted so that the lemurs on unprotected land could travel to the safety of the park. Here’s a gif that shows you what I’m talking about.

Unprotected lemurs on the left; safety on the right. Bamboo corridor in the middle.

But I needed money and resources to do this. And that’s how I got involved with CrowdRise and their 24-Hour Impact Project.

Plan in hand, I headed to Madagascar with a goal of raising $10,000 in one day. I was nervous. I launched the fundraising and the world began donating. It was amazing. We raised 50% of our goal in the first 3 hours. And so we got to work.

First up — we planted trees.

We planted the bamboo, which is fast growing but also an endemic type that only grows here in Madagascar. The goal being to create a more natural forest.

Then we bought equipment to monitor and track the lemurs. This not only helps us understand if they are crossing the bamboo forest bridge, but also to better understand this species in general and help protect it in the future.

How the funds we used

We had a ceremony with the local people. This was very important because if we didn’t have their cooperation then this is probably not going to work out. The ceremony was meant to please the ancestors by dancing, drinking and sharing a meal. This gave us the permission to continue.

Everyone heard my message and we quickly exceeded that and ended the 24 hours with over $12,000 — collected from donors all over the world.

The rest of the money went to buy supplies, cover labor costs and employ scientists to ensure that the species will flourish once relocated. Because this was a long-term project, the bamboo corridor was just the start.

The coolest byproduct of all this? I’d fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine: g0ing to Madagascar.

11-year-old me would be so proud of modern day me. Who knows, I’d probably even get a high five from him.

There’s no better way to see all that we achieved on the ground in Madagascar than by checking out this video of our time there…

86,402 seconds of goodness.

This whole experience has opened a new door for me. And I’ve come to realize something: each one of us can make lasting, positive change in this world. And it’s got me thinking.

My mind has been swirling lately. If we can raise $13,000 in 24 hours to help save the Greater Bamboo Lemur, what other species can we help save? What else is possible?

I think I may be coming down with an addiction.

Getting my hands dirty

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